Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Recent Building Construction and My Learning Curve

- Michael J Aggett -

The Heritage Advisory Committee, a Building Advisory Sub-Committee of the Municipal Council, has no statutory powers. Similarly, the Prince Albert Cultural Foundation has statutory powers only when buildings more than 60 years old are involved. The town is therefore wide open to inappropriate new development.

National Building Regulations
No construction may begin until the Municipal Council has approved building plans in writing. National Building Regulations require that a new construction not be aesthetically incompatible with its environment: ‘waarskynlik of inerdaad [nie] ontsier onooglik of aanstootlik [nie]’.

Furthermore, a building should not reduce the value of neighbouring properties: ‘afbreuk aan die waarde van aangrensende of naburige eiendomme.’ Numerous cases of inappropriate development around the town indicate that these regulations are not rigorously applied.

The Building Inspectorate
A toilet facility on site for construction workers, provided by the property owner, is a municipal requirement. Out-of-town workmen should not be housed in the buildings they are constructing unless sewerage and water connections have already been made.

Once a building permit has been issued and construction commenced the Building Inspectorate is required to progressively sign off the completed work in stages (for example, at the foundation stage and roof level stage). When construction is complete it is the owner and builder’s joint responsibility to clear the site of lumber, rubble and trash within seven days.

Letters sent are not necessarily received and/or filed by the Municipality. Increasingly, decisions are transmitted telephonically and portions of the record may thus be lost to posterity. The security of Municipal records (readily available to involved and interested parties) cannot be guaranteed.

The Executive Mayor has the statutory power to overrule the Municipal Building Inspectorate, the Town Manager and the Municipal Council and unilaterally sign off building plans that may still be in significant contention between involved parties.

Illegal building work
The South African courts are reluctant to order the demolition of partially constructed or completed buildings. Property owners regularly transgress building regulations in anticipation of paying a modest municipal fine, and thereby score handsomely. The Prince Albert Municipality does not have the wherewithal to initiate costly and protracted legal proceedings against miscreant property owners.

Having experienced firsthand shortcomings in the building plan procedures in Prince Albert, my call is don’t accept anything at face value and become seriously proactive regarding these matters. The more so because a number of significant Prince Albert building projects are reportedly in the pipeline.

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